Head held high
North Shore Living speaks with Julie Ross-Edwards, founder of Mosman-based disability start-up Head High.
She discusses her extensive background in education and disability services, and the passion she brings to her latest venture.
Mosman local Julie Ross-Edwards has long been determined to provide persons living with a disability the tools to increase their skills, confidence, and self-esteem.
“In the UK, I worked in support education, and I also worked in course design and curriculum development. That’s where my passion for education and empowering people living with a disability comes from,” she begins.
“I’m really passionate about my students and clients being able to hold their heads high, speak up for themselves and achieve the things they aspire to.”
Her most recent project, Head High, runs virtual programs designed to build clients’ self-esteem, leadership and decision-making skills.
Now, with Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown over, she is hoping to begin running similar programs face-to-face.
“Sometimes, a lot of people who have a disability finish school and, unfortunately, there is a lack of pathways for them at that point,” Julie explains.
“What I’m trying to do is build capacity for people, equipping them with the skills to be able to do things independently, to build their skills and confidence.”
During the recent lockdown, the social outcomes for her clients were incredibly important.
“It has been really valuable for my clients to be seeing each other, albeit virtually,” she says.
“They’ve been keeping in touch with each other, sending each other texts, and I think that’s huge for them to have that outlet. It might not seem like much, but I think it makes a big difference for them.”
The next step for Julie is to match her clients with employers on the North Shore. People with a disability are unemployed at a greater rate than the overall population, and underemployment is also a significant issue.
Those who are employed may only be doing one or two hours per week on an infrequent basis, when they would like to be working significantly more.
“The unemployment rate for people with a disability can be as high as 70 per cent,” Julie says.
“And when you factor in underemployment as well, it means there are so many people missing out on working.
“Being able to showcase people’s skills and abilities is really important.
Moving forward, Julie says she is hoping to partner with local businesses to both find employment for her clients and have business owners come and share their experiences.
“Hopefully, my clients will get a lot out of hearing them speak, and the other benefit is it will give the businesses the chance to see what people with a disability can offer them,” she adds.
Julie has already received plenty of positive feedback from parents of clients and hopes to help many more people living with a disability as her business grows.
If you are a parent or carer of a person living with a disability or a local business owner and would like to get in touch with Julie, you can do so via the Head High Facebook page.